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Not all ailments require pills, Consumer Reports says

Lifestyle changes may be better than medications in some cases

Americans are taking more prescription pills than ever before and more than people in any other country.

Some drugs are lifesavers. But others might be doing more harm than good.

While much of the medication prescribed is lifesaving or at least life-improving, a lot of pills are not.

Consumer Reports found that many Americans and their physicians have come to think that every symptom and every hint of disease requires a drug.

"Doctors often diagnose the 'pre-disease' stage of a condition. For example, pre-diabetes or pre osteoporosis. Sometimes they may put patients on medications to treat that," Lisa Gill, of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs, said. "The problem is, the medication may not work well and poses potential side effects and risks to patients."

Catching or treating a disease before it progresses can be a good thing if it helps the patient address a problem before it leads to serious harm. But drugs shouldn't always be the first line of treatment, Gill said.

Consumer Reports compiled a list of 12 medical issues where lifestyle changes can be prescribed before medication.

"For back and joint pain, instead of powerful opioid drugs, consider instead yoga, tai chi, even physical therapy," Gill said.

Big lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, being more active or losing weight are harder than just swallowing a pill, but the payoffs can mean healthy, drug-free and side-effect-free living.

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